Grief Matters: Lifting it up vs leaving it behind

By Deborah M. Jackson, MDiv,

Founder, Executive Director,

Heart to Soul Ministries, Inc.

As a ministry leader, and Soul Health™ expert, grief and loss are defining issue at the root of our emotional well-being and spiritual health. This reality confronts me in and out of communities of faith.

Through the death of my mother and father, and my spiritual training I have seen and experienced the gaps and shortcomings within our society about grief. Grief is not only complex and uniquely personal but can hold some of the most theologically challenging views for persons to navigate through.

Being a Christian, however, will not change the fact that grieving the death of a loved-one is one of the single most crucial parts of the human experience.

From a Christian spiritual perspective, it is important that when we look at the life of Jesus, we remember that He did not hide His emotions, or diminish and rebuke others for theirs. Jesus offers a model for how we must express our emotions.

As I process and reflect on each grief journey I have personally experienced, the death of my dad Herbert and the most recent death of my mom Mercedes, I see the movement of God so uniquely. Not only was the death of each of my parents different, but how God used each journey in my life has also been different. Grief is a unique experience to each person; one where we get to meet the Lord in a new and more meaningful way. I do not just say this as empty words but from a rich place of experience.

Recently, I was listening to a podcast on grief from a Christian counseling organization. I appreciated the reference given to a complete departure from the idea of “moving past grief, and/or getting over the death of a loved one.” The death of a loved one is not something a person gets over, rather, it’s a new reality one must adjust to.

The bible speaks so clearly to us about the redeeming nature of suffering and suffering specific to grief offers redeeming characteristics. Meaning, through what Jesus Christ himself suffered each experience became part of His Father’s redemptive work in Him. Likewise, so will our sufferings become part of the redeeming work God uses in our transformation as well.

Not all suffering is the same. Some suffering comes through consequence of disobedience in our lives. Some suffering comes as a ripple effect from the behavior of another. Some suffering comes as part of our fallen human condition. Some suffering is a result of direct, indirect and/or systemic oppression. Experiencing the death of a loved one is part of the natural order of living. The common thread God weaves through all our suffering experiences is how that suffering can be used in our lives and for our own formation (i.e., transformation/change).

Suffering that accompanies death of a loved one has a few unique characteristics. First, each one of us, if we live long enough will experience the death of someone we love. Grief suffering breaks down all barriers – color, background, economic status, gender, etc. Second, suffering the death of a loved one brings us into closer proximity to our own mortality. Third, which is where I want to anchor today is that grief suffering brings an ache that will not relent. It is harsh, pushy, interrupting, cruel and expansively painful affecting our emotions, mind, body and spirit. Grief suffering cannot be compartmentalized to relieve the pain when it’s your grief.

Finally, there is a saying  grievers may hear from time to time “it will get better with time.” The truth is I do not believe the idea of it getting better encapsulates the Lord’s view. In my experience the idea of my grief from losing my mother getting better feels antithetical to what my soul needs.

My fellow bereaved may agree that often the grief felt connects us to the level of love felt. The idea of it getting better somehow conflicts with the level of closeness I had and the desire to maintain that closeness.

What if the right way to view grief is to say that my grief matters. For the Lord blessed me with the gift of this person and relationship and my suffering this loss is not unseen or distant from God. What I suffer from losing my mom, dad, brother, child, grandmother, best friend will become part of the account of my redeeming story of all my sufferings and sorrows.

What erupts from my soul in worship from how the Lord comforts, shows up for me, guides, and brings me through it becomes a part of the redeeming work God accomplishes in me through the suffering and loss. My grief and sorrow become part of God’s work in my life, not separate from God’s work in my life. Therefore, my grief matters; we don’t need to leave it behind but allow it to bloom and burst forth for its redeeming and transforming value in heaven.

 

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